Feb 17, 2009

Great Election Expectations

By David Brickner

I was just "friended" by Benjamin Netanyahu. If you don't have a Facebook account, you might not know that being "friended" is like being "befriended" only it applies to cyberspace. On Facebook, "friends" can include people with whom who you have genuine relationships, as well acquaintances, and in some cases, strangers who are either friends of friends, or are just looking for new friends. People send one another friend requests, and if you agree to be a Facebook friend, the other person can have access to your profile or personal information, see who your other friends are, and share photos and other news and information directly with you.

Now, I generally only accept friend requests from people I actually know, or occasionally from friends of people I know. But when Mr. Netanyahu "friended" me, I said yes right away—even though we don't know each other, and I don't think I know anyone else who knows him. After all, this is the same Netanyahu who was once the Prime Minister of Israel and has been trying to get his old job back. I couldn't help being just a little bit flattered that he, or least his political helpers, had contacted me. But I doubt that he wanted to exchange personal information; in fact, I am sure that the former Prime Minister was probably taking a page from the playbook of our recent U.S. presidential elections, hoping to attract and/or organize support through the amazing array of computer-generated social networks.

At any rate, Israel's election was far closer than the recent vote in the United States. As of this writing, it is still too close to call, despite my "virtual" friendship with Mr. Netanyahu. Seriously, whatever the outcome, some will doubtless be gravely disappointed. Many are pinning their hopes on Mr. Netanyahu, believing he might restore Israel's sense of strength and dominance in the region, having recently gone through two terrible conflicts with Hamas and Hezbollah. Others hope that since he is closer to the West and more familiar with evangelicals, Mr. Netanyahu might have eased some of the problems Messianic Jews are facing in Israel. Others feel that Tzipi Livni's centrist Kadima Party, said to be narrowly in first place, has a better chance for negotiating peace. But who really knows?

Governing is far more difficult than running for office, as any leader can tell you. It seems that campaigns are mostly about inspiration, while governing is about perspiration. That's not to say that campaigning isn't hard work, but after the votes are in, rhetoric inevitably falls short of reality, promises are diminished and we can't help but be disappointed in the limitations of our political leaders and systems. This would be true for just about any candidate of any nation facing serious, complex problems.

Maybe that is why the book of Proverbs warns:
"When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony. Do not crave his delicacies, for that food is deceptive" (Proverbs 23:1-3).
This biblical admonition is more than a cautionary note against overeating. It reminds us that interaction with political leaders can be complicated and somewhat risky; when you draw close to political power you better guard your heart from deception and temper your expectations with truth.

That doesn't mean Christian citizens should shy away from political concerns or from doing whatever we can to hold our government leaders accountable. But our hope must be in the Lord. Whatever expectations we have for things to improve in Israel or America or anywhere else in the world, we must guard our hearts from bitterness when our expectations are not met. We must preserve ourselves from the cynicism that is so prevalent in the media and in a world that does not share our strength of hope in God. We need to pray for our leaders more than we complain about them. As we hope in God, He can use our current difficulties to bring about His greater purposes.

When people feel self-satisfied and comfortable, it's easier for them to overlook their deeper needs. A friend of mine recently pointed out that the gyms are full and the churches are even fuller as a result of the current economic climate. People are looking for ways to calm their fears. We can thank the Lord for that and do our best to show people that through Jesus, they can have the peace that passes understanding. There's no call to be gleeful that many are nervous and uncertain about their future, but we ought to be ready to show how disappointment can be positive—if it points us away from false hopes to the only one who can save.

Again, the book of Proverbs reminds us:
"Many seek the ruler's favor, but justice for man comes from the LORD" (Proverbs 29:26).
I don't know if the results of Israel's recent elections reflected a hope inspired by any particular campaign slogan. When I think of our own elections, I'd like to change but one letter of that well-known slogan that electrified so many throughout our nation. Believers in Jesus can unite in affirming that, "Yes He Can!" (and by "he" I am not referring to any mortal man.) When it comes to meeting the challenges of today's economic crisis, let's remember, "Yes He Can!" When it comes to peace and security in Israel, we can hold firm to the hope that "Yes He Can!" And when it comes to the future of the whole world, we must believe and confidently expect, "Yes He Can!" That is the hope we can confidently share with people of all nations and political persuasions.

It's just like the old hymn says:
"There's no disappointment in Jesus; he's all that he promised to be. His love and His care comfort me everywhere; there's no disappointment in Him."